For as long as I can remember, I've wanted a son as my first child.
I fantasised over the idea of having a mini-me who I could mould into the millionaire footballer I almost became 🤥 . The idea of having a daughter first had never appealed to me. My objection to it was simply a lack of confidence in my ability to raise a girl.
Arrogantly, I believed i'd be a great dad to a little boy but with no evidence or experience, how would I know? Does being a man automatically make me a great father to a boy? Of course not.
It takes more than being a man to raise a son. That kind of thinking is the reason so many men have skewed perceptions of masculinity. Without much thought, we regurgitate the dangerous rhetoric taught to us by other men.
“Boys are tough” “ Boys don’t cry” “Boys don’t show weakness”. The list goes on.
What was stopping me from repeating this cycle of poor education?
I came to terms with the fact that having a daughter was actually everything I needed.
The prospect of having a little girl started to grow on me even before we found out my wife was pregnant.
Lo and behold, my daughter Irie was born on 6.7.20, three days after my 30th birthday.
This pandemic baby was the best birthday present I could ask for.
Raising a girl and understanding the impact my manhood would have on her life was a journey I was excited to embark on. More importantly, I was excited to see how she would mould me as a man.
The Baptism of Fire
“It takes a village to raise a child”.
I didn't think being a father would be easy but I definitely wasn’t prepared for what was to come in the following weeks of my daughter’s birth. From cleaning tons of poo to slipping on vomit, it's safe to say I've had an intense induction into fatherhood.
Here are 4 things that have shaped my early experience as a father.
I listened intensely when the men in my family described how they cried when their children were born. My first thought was “Interesting.That won’t be me”.
I'm not too proud to cry, I’m just not an emotional person.
However, the morning of Irie's birth, I sat next to my wife by the hospital bed, and started thinking about the moment my daughter would be in my arms. I thought about what she’d look like and how she’d look at me. I was excited but deeply curious about my own reaction when I'd see her for the first time. My eyes suddenly welled up and my throat became dry. This overwhelming feeling came over me as I envisioned holding my child in just a few hours. The thought provoked an unexpected emotion within me that almost brought me to tears.
It was a rush of emotions I've never experienced before.
I thought to myself “Manny? What are you doing? Are you about to cry? Relax bro”.
My wife's next contraction was enough to bring me back round and get myself together.
It was an escape from a moment of vulnerability but It was a moment I probably needed to get out of my system. Maybe I should have allowed myself to be vulnerable but my wife's contraction was also a reminder that the next few hours weren’t about me.
When my daughter finally arrived, I didn’t cry but I was left speechless.
It was the cliche love at first sight moment but in all honesty, I was pretty much in love with her before we even met. Well at least the thought of her. The men in my family were right about one thing: You'll never feel a love like you do when your newborn child is in your arms and staring up at you. Every day since Irie's birth, I look at her and think ‘‘Wow. what did I do to deserve you?”. I’ve learned to accept that I may not know much about raising a daughter but I know that I love her unconditionally, in a way I’ve never loved before.
Sleep? What’s sleep?
During my wife’s pregnancy, friends and family would often say
“Make sure you get as much sleep as you can” “Get plenty of rest now. You’re going to need it when the baby comes”.
Despite the warning signs, I was never prepared for the head on collision into sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation isn’t new to me at all; In my early 20s I suffered from Chronic Insomnia. However, the lack of sleep that ensued in the first few weeks of Irie's birth was a baptism of fire. I had to renew my mindset about sleep because it no longer became a given.
It was more like a luxury.
The best advice we received is to sleep whenever the baby sleeps.
I didn’t take this advice seriously enough and learned the hard way.
During the day, Irie sleeps for hours, sometimes 3-4 hours straight. I’d make the foolish mistake of staying up so I could do work and run some errands before “bedtime”. Laughable. Irie had a different plan.
In the evening, she comes alive like she's ready for a rave. It’s as if there's a shot of red bull in her milk. At most, she'd sleep for 1- 2 hours. She wakes up to eat and then takes another two hours to get back to sleep. Even when she sleeps at night, I’ll never completely knock out because i'm checking to see if she's breathing every 10 minutes. I'd lay there at 4am, sleep deprived, knowing I'd be awake in an another hour, wishing i'd just slept during the day when I had the chance.
The lack of sleep eventually started to take its toll on me. It made me cranky during the day and I found it increasingly difficult to do the simplest of tasks because I was so tired.
I started to understand the importance of using every window of opportunity to sleep during the day, where possible. When the baby sleeps, you sleep too. I get it now.
One thing I learned about myself since my wife's pregnancy is how well i’d do as a stay-at-home husband. Seriously. I’ve never really subscribed to the idea that women should cook and clean because my mum didn't raise a helpless fool. I was taught to not wait for anyone to do things for you. Therefore, I cooked and cleaned for myself and for others. When my wife became pregnant I needed to be even more proactive in these departments.
This wasn't an issue as I did my fair share of cooking and cleaning anyways.
However, her first trimester was so rough that she leaned on me to do most things around the house and this was something I had to quickly adjust to. I knew it wasn't realistic or fair to place the responsibility of maintaining our house on someone who could barely walk into the kitchen without wanting to throw up. Having to step up and balance work with the extra responsibilities wasn't easy but for the most part I enjoyed it . Needless to say, there were times I'd get frustrated when it appeared someone was adding to the mess I was trying to clean up.
It helped to reflect on the role my wife was playing in this whole process and the same applies now that she has given birth. She was growing our baby inside of her, who is now totally dependent on my wife. Growing a baby inside of you, giving birth and then becoming a walking food bank is no easy feat and it doesn't end there. Between the morning sickness, the physical and hormonal changes, I'm happy with washing the dishes and doing the laundry. I'm not equipped for what my wife has to go through. I had a newfound respect for women, particularly those who have experienced pregnancy with no partner or extra help.
As long as I am physically able, I'll do what I can to best serve my family.
Even if that means driving my wife to Starbucks every night for a mediocre iced-coffee drink.
There’s an old African proverb; “It takes a village to raise a child”. It means a whole community must come together and interact with a child for the child to grow in a healthy and safe environment.
I often refer to this phrase when i'm collaborating with people on projects.
However, the significance of this proverb really hit home when Irie was born.
After 9 years together [2 of them married] i'd say my wife and I have been a pretty good team thus far. However, Parenting would add a whole new dimension to this partnership. Two weeks into parenthood, my wife and I were feeling the pressure. We were stressed, sleep deprived and fatigued. Half the time, we didn't even know what we were doing but we were always in it together. The smallest of tasks require both of us to be in sync and in agreement. There's no time for selfishness. If she changes the nappies , I'll hold the nappy bag. If she feeds the baby, I'll sterilise the bottle. We were becoming a formidable force and the beauty of it all was that we didn’t always sit down and plan how we would do things; we'd just get on with it.
Eventually, we both ran out of steam and frustrations grew, particularly with the lack of sleep hitting us harder each day. This is where the help of family was immeasurable.
It was the little things they did that proved the most meaningful. They’d cook for us, bring us food, and buy supplies that we didn’t know we needed. My wife’s cousin was even kind enough to stay with us for the first two weeks, just to give us an extra hand. The biggest support we received was from my mother in law who came over from Bermuda and basically showed us how it was all done. Whether it was bathing, feeding or changing nappies, she was a pro, and a needed calming presence. I'm not sure what we'd do without her.
Every friend and family member who bought a gift, cooked food or visited has helped us raise our child. There wasn’t a favour or a gift too small and that was what I appreciate the most. It's a kind reminder that the old African Proverb is very much relevant today and an important message we should never lose sight of.
Becoming a father has shown me that parenting isn't easy and it's not something we should take lightly. In the past two months, I've learned more about myself and what i'm capable of.
I see my wife in a different way. A mother and nurturer, who loves her child wholeheartedly.
I see God's love and beauty every time I look at Irie. My world has literally changed, for the better, of course. As my favourite artist Lauryn Hill once sang "Nothing Even Matters".
The only thing that matters now is the wellbeing of my wife and my daughter.
This could all be some kind of honeymoon stage but i've got a feeling it's pretty much how my life will be. When it's all said and done, there's nothing i'd put above them, except for God. Not my work, not my projects, nothing.
My respect for single parents has also gone through the roof. I can't imagine how parents have had to do this all alone. I've also had to appreciate the efforts of my parents, who raised their children in a foreign country, with no immediate family around them.
Irie won't have that problem as she has a village ready to fight for her.
The first Grandchild and niece in both her parent's families. She is going to be so spoilt.
Nonetheless, her calm demeanour in the midst of her parents' madness is why her name is so fitting.
Irie = "Everything bless "